For many, the close of a day and the descent of evening brings images of shared meals and quiet, relaxing moments. But for those that are facing some form of dementia, dusk brings shadows, increasing fatigue and a restlessness that causes angry outbursts, confusion and suspicion. In fact, it is such a common occurrence that it has a name: sundowning.
What is Sundowning?
According to an article in WebMD, up to one in five people with Alzheimer’s experience sundowning. Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes this syndrome. Some believe it is due to the changes occurring in the brain that are affecting the inner body clock. Others believe that it is due to changes occurring that affect images received by the brain leading to hallucinations and seeing things that aren’t there as shadows grow. Separating dreams from reality can also become difficult and disorienting.
How to Help
Pay close attention to your elder parent during the time when these personality changes seem to occur. See if there are any specific triggers that start the process. Is it low levels of lighting? Are you and your parent growing tired?
One technique that has proven useful is to develop a routine for your elder parent. This includes setting a specific time for waking and a schedule for daily activities including exercise. Also, be sure to include some time in the sunlight in order to encourage their body to set its wake/sleep schedule. If they nap, keep it to about 30 minutes and at the same time every day. Make their biggest meal at lunch and offer a lighter fair for dinner and make sure to schedule it at least four hours before bedtime.
In the evening, provide activities that keep them busy so that their mind does not wander to dark and fearful places, while at the same time providing them with a sense of calm peace, as if preparing your young ones for bedtime. Limit stimulating activities and reduce background noise. This may include an easy game of cards, a warm bath filled with a cup of Epsom salt and their favorite essential oil with soft, relaxing music playing throughout the home, or a sunset stroll through the neighborhood.
Make sure that their home is well lit, and turn on the lights before dusk begins to settle. In this way, the fore looming shadows are kept to a minimum. Take a look at their living environment from an outsider’s perspective. Look for places that need an extra light or some contrasting colors that make it easier for your parent to see.
Research suggests that a low-dose of melatonin, a natural hormone that induces sleep, may be beneficial. Be sure to speak with your elder parent’s primary health care provider before adding this to their supplements.
Elder Care Provider
Keeping your elder loved one on a regular schedule requires diligence and commitment. It can also take its toll on a family caregiver’s physical and emotional wellbeing. In order to be there for your parent as long as they need you, be sure to take some time every week to do the things that bring you joy and recharge. An elder care provider understands what your parent is going through and has learned adaptive communication techniques to help them while assisting them with their everyday needs as they progress through the stages of dementia.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Elder Care Services in Aurora IL, please contact the caring staff at Big Hearts Home Care today!